Men who whine about wearing condoms — villains of sex-ed videos, defiers of CDC reports and common sense — might protest even louder if they think their partners are hot.
When faced with the proposition of casually sleeping with a pretty woman, men are more eager to forgo condoms, according to a new scientific survey, than if they think their fling is less attractive.
Researchers at the University of Southampton and the University of Bristol asked heterosexual men to report their desire to have unprotected sex with 20 women, based on photographs of the women’s faces. The scientists discovered men were much less apt to wear a condom if they believed a hypothetical partner had a prettier face, as the researchers wrote recently in the British Medical Journal Open. The study was small, just 51 subjects, but it adds to a growing body of evidence that both men and women want to relax safe-sex standards around good-looking partners.
“Men are more willing to have condomless sex with attractive women,” wrote lead author and University of Southampton public health researcher Anastasia Eleftheriou, in an email to The Washington Post. That holds true “even though they might believe that those women are more likely” to have a sexually transmitted disease, she said.
The male subjects were not hugely varied in their demographics: the 51 heterosexual men who made up the survey ranged in age from 19 to 61 years old, and all spoke English. Most men had lost their virginity at an average age of 18; the youngest was 13 and the oldest, 30. But there was quite a bit of variance in reported number of sexual partners — the average was 10, though four responders had never had sexual intercourse and one man said he had had sex with 60 women.
While looking at a black-and-white portrait of a woman’s face, each man used a sliding scale, from of 0 to 100, to rate a) the woman’s attractiveness b) how likely he would be to sleep with her, if he were single c) how likely he would be to use a condom d) how many men like him, out a group of 100, would have unprotected sex with the woman and e) the odds he thought this woman had a sexually transmitted disease.
Not surprisingly, the closer a man rated a woman to 100, the higher his willingness was to have sex with her. But the study subjects were split on whether or not the attractive women were more likely to have a sexually transmitted disease.
Previous studies on perceived health and looks reflect this division, too. Some researchers have found that men view attractive women as more promiscuous, and therefore more likely to have been exposed to sexually transmitted disease; others indicate humans broadly link good looks to good health. (One evolutionary psychology theory argues that facial symmetry, a significant factor in attractiveness, indicates a high resistance to parasites. Because we want our mates to be parasite-free, symmetry becomes pretty.)